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The Iran Deal’s North Korean Shadow

DENVER – It didn’t take long, but, according to the Korean Central News Agency, the North Koreans are underwhelmed by the Iran nuclear deal – and thus unlikely to follow suit. The North Korean announcement took pains to differentiate the Pyongyang regime’s program from the Iranian one, and fell back on shopworn lines that nuclear weapons were necessary to counter the United States’ “hostile polices.” North Korea’s leaders, not exactly known for fresh thinking, are likely to soldier on into a future that has little to offer their beleaguered people.

Many critics of the Iranian nuclear agreement compare Iran’s behavior to that of North Korea, and suggest that the deal will not hold because deals with North Korea never held. There are indeed some similarities.

Iran has been challenged over the years to tell the truth about its nuclear program and, more fundamentally, to be clear about its goals and objectives. And Iran’s behavior in the broader Middle East – particularly its support for terrorist groups in the region – seems to belie its claim to be seeking regional stability and economic development. While most countries in the world are disgusted with North Korea’s behavior, Iran appears to consider the country a trading partner and a kindred spirit.

In September 2005, North Korea agreed in a joint statement with its five partners in the so-called Six-Party Talks to support the goal of denuclearization, and specifically committed to “abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.” In return, North Korea received affirmations from the US and South Korea that no nuclear weapons were deployed in South Korea, as well as assurances that there was no intent to attack North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons.